Full Steam Ahead

One of the projects I have in process is a novel called Owl Dance. Essentially the novel is a Wild West Steampunk adventure. I’m approximately one-third of the way through and having a great time writing this story. Now, people who know me primarily through Tales of the Talisman Magazine, or my science fiction novels such as The Pirates of Sufiro or The Solar Sea may wonder what I’m doing writing a Wild West Steampunk adventure. Well, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been working in this genre, or in variations of it, for a while. I thought it would be fun to go back and look at some of my earlier Wild West, Steampunk, and related works.


“The Slayers” was a story that appeared in the August 2001 issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine. It’s not exactly Steampunk in the sense of being set in the Victorian age, but it does involve airship crews of the distant past hunting dragons. I think you could almost call this a proto-Steampunk story.

“The Slayers” has long been a personal favorite story of mine. Partly that’s because it was my first professional story sale, but partly it’s because the story was just a lot of fun. Essentially it’s a pastiche of Moby-Dick where the Pequod is replaced by an airship, and the white whale is replaced by a gold dragon. The illustration for the story was beautifully executed by Mark Harrison. Unfortunately, I believe this issue is out of print, but one of these days I hope to assemble a short story collection. If so, “The Slayers” is sure to be included.


“Pat, Marcella, and the Kid” first appeared in Issue #2 of Night to Dawn Magazine in 2002. This is a vampire tale about a Cajun woman named Marcella DuBois, who is turned into a vampire and goes out West where she meets Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.


Not a lot of Steampunk gadgetry in this story, but it does blend the supernatural and the Wild West in some exciting ways. I reprinted the story as a standalone chapbook, which garnered a very nice review in the Alibi from Albuquerque. Currently, the story is part of my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. You can find all the places where the novel is available on the Books and Audio Books page of my website.


In 2005, while traveling to a writer’s conference in West Virginia, I wrote the story “A Specter in the Light”. Scientists accidentally reanimate the corpse of a dead conquistador using a Tesla Coil in this story set in 1890s New Mexico. Despite the Wild West setting, we’re firmly in Steampunk territory with this story. It was published in the little magazine Trails: Intriguing Stories of the Old West. Since the magazine wasn’t widely distributed, I’m now shopping this story around for reprint.


My story “The Persian Witch” appeared in the anthology Trails: Intriguing Stories of the Wild West. In this story we return to the small town of Socorro, New Mexico where we meet a sheriff named Ramon Morales. He becomes enchanted with a woman from Persia named Fatemeh Karimi who seems able to charm owls. When Ramon and Fatemeh try to help the victims of a mine accident, Fatemeh falls afoul of the mine’s owner.


The anthology which was published in 2006 also features stories by Paul Victor Wargelin, Lyn McConchie, Robert E. Vardeman, Uncle River, Valerie Hunter and David B. Riley. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but I hope that you’ll be able to read this story again soon.


“Electric Kachinas” appears in issue number 2 of Science Fiction Trails. The story continues the adventures of Ramon and Fatemeh from the story, “The Persian Witch”. In the new story, Ramon and Fatemeh travel south to Palomas Hot Springs where they meet Ramon’s cousin Eduardo and a mysterious Native American who is very possessive of his kachina dolls.


Published in 2007, this magazine is available at The Genre Mall.


This brings up to 2010 and Owl Dance. The novel will follow Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi mentioned above in their continuing adventures. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when a fleet of dirigibles from Czarist Russia invades the United States?

I’ll be sure to keep you posted with news about the novel as it develops.

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5 comments on “Full Steam Ahead

  1. Sandy says:

    Dave, I am so impressed! Wish I had the guts to submit something for print these days, but I’m not as fearless as I was in my youth. Keep up the fantastic work! So proud to say I know you!

  2. Thanks, Sandy! That means a lot to me. As for submitting things — I’ve come to realize the worst thing anyone can say “no” to my work and I’ve developed a thick skin from lots of people saying “no”! Still, it’s worth it when someone comes along and says “yes”. By the way, I’m going to have a book giveaway here on the blog soon — watch this space!

  3. Clay Davis says:

    Hi David, my name is Clay and I have a steampunk novella I am trying to get published. I would be grateful if you have any advice on how to get a story out to the public. Thank you.

    • Hi Clay, thanks for dropping by. Novella length is a bit tough, no matter what the genre. First thing I’d do, if you haven’t already, is take time, edit and polish and make the story the best you can. Maybe have some friends who won’t spare your feelings, give you some honest feedback for improvement. But at the very least make sure spelling and grammar are as close to perfect as you can manage.

      From there, my best advice is to go to http://ralan.com or http://duotrope.com — both are really good online market lists. Duotrope can be especially useful since on the front page you can enter for example, fantasy, steampunk, and novella and it’ll give you a list of publishers that’ll be interested in your work. That’s a good place to start. However, be aware that steampunk is pretty popular these days, and not everyone who would be willing might list steampunk — they may just list fantasy. If in doubt, most magazines and publishers have a query address. Send them a nice polite query and ask. Genre can sometimes be flexible with publishers. However, the rest of their guidelines — formats they accept, word count, etc. — are usually not flexible. If it looks like a good market to send your novella, follow the guidelines that are linked at the market lists and send the story in. If I can answer any other questions, let me know and I’ll do my best! Good luck!

  4. Just a quick update while I’m here – my story “A Specter in the Light” is currently slated for reprint in the anthology SIX-GUNS STRAIGHT FROM HELL later this year. I hope to post a blog on the book once I have some more details. The anthology will be published by Science Fiction Trails Publishing: http://www.sciencefictiontrails.com

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